Saint John's Abbey Church: Marcel Breuer And The Creation Of A Modern Sacred Space by Victoria M. YoungSaint John's Abbey Church: Marcel Breuer And The Creation Of A Modern Sacred Space by Victoria M. Young

Saint John's Abbey Church: Marcel Breuer And The Creation Of A Modern Sacred Space

byVictoria M. Young

Hardcover | October 21, 2014

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In the 1950s the brethren at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint John the Baptist in Collegeville, Minnesota—the largest Benedictine abbey in the world—decided to expand their campus, including building a new church. From a who’s who of architectural stars—such as Walter Gropius, Richard Neutra, Pietro Belluschi, Barry Byrne, and Eero Saarinen—the Benedictines chose a former member of the Bauhaus, Marcel Breuer. In collaboration with the monks, this untested religious designer produced a work of modern sculptural concrete architecture that reenvisioned what a church could be and set a worldwide standard for midcentury religious design.

Saint John’s Abbey Church documents the dialogue of the design process, as Breuer instructed the monks about architecture and they in turn guided him and his associates in the construction of a sacred space in the crucial years of liturgical reform. A reading of letters, drawings, and other archival materials shows how these conversations gave shape to design elements from the church’s floor plan to the liturgical furnishings, art, and incomparable stained glass installed within it. The book offers a rare detailed view of how a patron and architect work together in a successful building campaign—one that, in this case, lasted for two decades and resulted in designs for twelve buildings, ten of which were completed.

The post–World War II years were critical in the development of religious and architectural experiences in the United States—experiences that came together in the construction of Saint John’s Abbey and University Church and that find their full expression in Victoria M. Young’s account of the process. Using the liturgy of the mid-twentieth century as a cornerstone for understanding the architecture produced to support it, her book showcases the importance of modernism in the design of sacred space, and of Marcel Breuer’s role in setting the standard.

Victoria M. Young is professor of modern architectural history and chair of the art history department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her work is featured in Casabella and Saint John’s at 150: A Portrait of This Place Called Collegeville, and she is curator of the exhibition permanently installed in Frank Gehry...
Title:Saint John's Abbey Church: Marcel Breuer And The Creation Of A Modern Sacred SpaceFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 8.5 × 8.5 × 0.9 inPublished:October 21, 2014Publisher:University of Minnesota PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:081667616X

ISBN - 13:9780816676163


Table of Contents




1. Bricks and Brothers: Establishing the Benedictines in Collegeville
2. The Twelve Apostles: Selecting the Architect
3. Building the Spiritual Axis: Breuer and the Benedictines Design a Modern Catholic Church
4. A Ministry of Art: The Decorative Program of the Abbey Church

Conclusion: A Modern Liturgical Design for the Ages

Illustration Credits

Editorial Reviews

"Young explores in compelling details, photos and drawings what a massive, innovative undertaking the campus building projects were, with most attention focused on the building project’s glorious centerpiece—the abbey church."—Newsleaders"Cogent and compelling. The story of the creation of St. John’s Abbey Church is as captivating and instructive today as it was a half-century ago."—Architecture MN"Young’s book dazzles as an illuminating story of a critical episode in church architectural history, replete with lessons for architects in the present. With the astuteness that only a superior architectural historian could marshal, Young moves us through critical passages in the design dialogue between Breuer and the Benedictines."—ArchNewsNow"Young’s lucid writing style makes this book a page-turner, and its focus on a single site results in richly concentrated narratives that sustain interest throughout. Though the monograph is not biographical, the lives and character of the architect, artists and brethren are apparent in a manner that suggests Young’s own evident enthusiasm and affection for the site, which invigorates her solid academic expertise."—Art and Christianity"Saint John’s Abbey Church gives an insight in the discussions about meaning, art, and liturgy taking place mid-century that influenced the design of so many of the other churches across America regardless of denomination."—Docomomo"Well-written and equally well-researched."—Catholic Library World"Young’s book is quite handsome, and the archival material it unveils will likely appeal to students of Breuer’s work or high-modernist architecture in general."—Catholic Historical Review"Dr. Young's narrative ability has transformed her careful research into a highly readable story, and the University of Minnesota Press has skillfully designed this book to reflect the artistic values celebrated in the text. Every architectural library and every library interested in Catholic art and architecture should possess a copy."—Middle West Review